All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Review

All the Light We Cannot See Review
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, ISBN 9780007548699, 531pp

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer is a book I’ve been hearing about for ages that everyone raves about. So when I saw it in a second-hand bookstore recently, I just had to grab it. My expectations were huge going in to read this book and I have to say that it mostly lived up to all the hype.

Set during World War II it tells the story of a young, blind French girl named Marie-Laure who must navigate war-torn France and all its dangers without being able to see them. Her father works at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and helps Marie-Laure find her way around by carving a replica of the city streets for her to memorise. Then there is Werner, a remarkably gifted German orphan whose talents are recognised and utilised by the Hitler Youth. He can build and repair radios and has a thirst for learning. They are on different sides of a conflict which will have a deep personal cost for them both.

It’s a relatively simple story told mostly from Marie-Laure and Werner’s points-of-view, starting before the war and finishing after. The story weaves together a cursed diamond, a Nazi jewel hunter, the natural world, the wonders of the radio, the French resistance, family, the brutality of war, disability and loss.

The writing is stunning and I can see why Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this novel. The language is just beautiful and more than anything the writing is what I loved most about this novel. Its short chapters (sometimes only a couple of pages long) is something that I usually see in a thriller, not historical fiction, and this distracted me sometimes as it cut from character to character.

The book was a bit slow for me at first but then got better and better as it went along. This was very much a piece of finely crafted literature. I felt like I was reading a book which will one day be referred to as a classic–it’s probably already treated that way. I can see why it took the author ten years to write this. I’m sure he agonised over every single sentence. Such as: “The Pyrenees gleam. A pitted moon stands on their crests as if impaled.”

As much as I enjoyed this book, I liked The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah better. Also set in France during World War II, I connected more with the characters in this book than I did with the characters in All the Light We Cannot See. I think that sometimes I struggle with prize winning fiction because often they are more about the method of writing than the actual story. I could see the author’s hand in everything and for me that got in the way of the story and truly feeling for the characters. But as a feat of literary achievement, All the Light We Cannot See is truly magnificent.

Verdict: Read this stunning historical fiction read if you want to see what all the fuss is about.

Have you read All the Light We Cannot See? What did you think ?

16 thoughts on “All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Review

  1. Trang July 13, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    I loved this book too ! The writing is so beautiful 😍 I was mesmerized with every chapter


    • Janereads July 13, 2018 / 3:37 pm

      That’s great that you loved it!


  2. acosyreader July 13, 2018 / 4:25 pm

    Interesting review – I tried to start reading this on Kindle but I had to put it down – I think I need to read it in physical book form so i can flick back on forth if I get confused at dates or characters! Haha.

    Totally understand the feeling you describe about prize-winning fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janereads July 13, 2018 / 5:03 pm

      The structure is a bit confusing at first so I can see why you might have struggled 😁. It did get better as it went along.


  3. Justine @ Bookish Wisps July 13, 2018 / 8:21 pm

    I love this book too! I was gripping it all the way through the end. It was beautiful ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janereads July 13, 2018 / 8:39 pm

      The ending was so emotional.


  4. cricketmuse July 14, 2018 / 12:41 am

    I galloped through the book, and I need to reread it and savor it more this time. I do remember the writing being exquisite.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. thisisoneforthebooks July 14, 2018 / 6:57 am

    I loved this books, it was my first introduction to the historical fiction genre and I couldn’t have picked a better one! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins July 19, 2018 / 5:03 pm

    Yes!!! I read this one for the first time myself just recently (my own review is coming soon), mostly to see what the fuss is all about – it ended up on my list because it was rated so highly in the Dymocks 101. I think we had much the same reaction; the writing is beautiful, and it’s certainly a big literary accomplishment, but I don’t think it was the best all-round historical novel I’ve ever read. Love hearing your thoughts, and seeing (once again) how in sync we are as readers 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janereads July 20, 2018 / 9:37 pm

      That’s great to hear! Can’t wait to see your review 😁.

      Liked by 1 person

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